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  • Dylan Brown

Amak Mahmoodian's Published Works Exploring Identity

Photographer, Amak Mahmoodian gave an introduction to both of her published photobooks Shenasnameh (2016) and Zanjir (2019). Her practice works to question the notions of identity and the home, bringing images, poetry, and archival imagery together to gain a deeper understanding of the past and present.

Her first book Shenasnameh, named after the official name of the Iranian birth certificate explores the photographs inside that identifies the certificate holder. Winner of the Photobook Flip Award 2016, the work points out the similarities between her own photograph, her mothers and all Iranian women. Showing several identical looking images highlighting the limited ways Iranian woman are represented and can express themselves, showing the ways identity can become blurred through these images and the only uniqueness shown being the individual’s fingerprints.

As Amak was born during a time of war, it caused a separation from her family for years. She recalls the only form of conversations and meetings she could have with her family was through the family photo albums that worked as evidence of her loved ones. With this interest of photographs representing the past, her tutor at the Tehran University of Art advised her to study the archival materials present at the Golestan museum.

Working with the archive of the museum, led to her second book Zanjir, by exploring the photographs of the King during the Qajar era, Nasr al din Shah, Amak wanted to find the identities of the woman present in the 48 albums from archives and the similarities between their lives and ours. Through studying the King’s handwritten captions of the photographs, Amak was able to find the identities of the women present in the photos and wanted to use her photographic practice to share their studies and explore our ideas of identity. The book partly became a performative project, as she would use the archival imagery of the women’s face as a mask onto of the portraits, she was taking of the people around her. Using the archives to tell the stories of the past, in the present.

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